“The Jack Hirschman Arcane” by Juan Felipe Herrera

Aug 31, 2021

The Jack Hirschman Arcane

— This is my am. This is my againsting, J. Hirschman

Yes, it was in the afternoon when we talked
it could have been at Bookworks on Mission Street
it could have been later in the day at Alejandro’s
& Magali’s where we sat down & stood up
beers & Pall Malls & laughs & smiles yes smiles
something else too what was it
you & me & Magali & Alejandro & Jorge sometimes &
Wildredo who is gone now & Francisco who is gone now
we talked about everything the collective in particular
what did we do
where did we go
what was it that we held when we were together
it was all in the kitchen with paintings
& rouge & orange tapestries & a wooden floor the flat on 17th
it was all there i think
it all began there it all fermented there it all
launched from there
Alejandro had been around for a decade planchando
poems on paper & the tabloid Tin Tan &
El Centro Cultural de La Mission the new idea he said
we walked & walked & walked who had a car
i never saw one it does not matter
there where we dragged our long bodies & skinny mics
to the second floor Feil Bldg Folsom and 24th smearing
our faces on the wooden planks like Elvis 1956
Mayakovsky you said like Mayakovsky you said
we did not have an identity we had something else
we did not belong anywhere else
it was good to be lost in-between & nowhere
it was good to be where we were we were
blowin’ poems like Max Schwartz said or simply
moving in & out of ourselves in & out of Latin America
in & out of the wars drenching us & America together
maybe that was it America together drenched in wars
we were there everyone was there
there was a kindness somehow there was a smoothness
in the dark clubs where we neoned to Flora Purim
or at the Co-Misery Café where the wild ones riffed
& our starry green animal eyes topaz faces & ruby jelly hearts
it was inside the poem it all was inside the poem
that thing in there that existence in there that
smashed branchlet of thyme on Lorca’ stone we lugged it
around & yu hollered again & yu peered at it
& you slapped it on our shoulders & Vic Martinez alone
always reading Lu Chi & Jorge Argueta had just appeared
from El Salvador destroyed & bloody
that was the way it was that was what we was yes
swayin’ & hollerin’ & blowin’ & standin’ & waitin’
for that next thing we felt on the left side of our chest
it was gonna be this & that it was gonna be comin’
down sooner of later it was the side-swiped planet it was
the betrayed sky it was this blistering nerve meter severing
the nation under our feet a tragicomedy could have been written
by Gombrowicz it was this jagged being breaking-away
from itself tectonic & foreseen & scribbled so we called it
so we held it here & there & screamed it
at Muni Pier so we swaged into it & yu turned
around just one more time just
one more fiery yawp one more walking into cut-out
City silhouettes toward Ferlinghetti’s green piers
we were that torque that myriad of translations
you jotted in Sicily the divide you saw coming
the scorched planet you uncovered with every
grito another rough-hewn animal leaping down the 101
to the bottom of Potrero Hill where the Alabama Street
Boy’s Club played baseball in ’61 the condos sinking
South of Market it all was upon us your feverish
Arcanes sparkin’ down Broadway by City Lights
                        maybe the Am was the All
            & the All was the Flow
                 & the Flow was All Our Loves
                        & the Againsting
                                    was the For & the For was
            the Against & the Nothingness
was the churning of the Now
still dancing Yu thru prophecy waves &
falling apart Yu long haired
                            clikkity-typing from the archipelago

Juan Felipe Herrera / 8-30-21, for my hermano, Jack. RIP


Juan Felipe Herrera was the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate, from 2015-2017. His most recent book is Every Day We Get More Illegal (City Lights, 2020).

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